Arctic Expedition 2013

Follow the journey : July 23 - August 7

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Daily Journey Updates

Expedition Update

 Saturday, July 20, 2013

Uummannaq, Greenland

Update from Expedition Leader, Geoff Green, 2pm local time.

As the team was coming into Uummannaq fjord this morning, they were greeted by a pod of about 25 fin whales! Fin whales are the second largest whales in the world, after blue whales. It was an inspiring sight! The water was calm and beautiful. This afternoon, the Expedition will be participating in the 250th Anniversary Celebration of the town of Uummannaq!  As part of the festivities, the Expedition will meet Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond. The team has also created a song of celebration for Uummannaq, which we will be performing!

We're also excited to be in the home of the Uummannaq Polar Institute, another fantastic polar education initiatives supported by the chair of our board, Prince Albert II of Monaco.

We'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Ann Andreasen and the Uummannaq Children's Home for their assistance in organizing our visit to Uummannaq, which will be unforgettable because of their generosity in sharing their community.


Daily Update from Expedition Leader Geoff Green
20 July 2013, 10:40 pm
Uummannaq Fjord, Greenland
Thankfully, schedules are adaptable on Students on Ice. As we often say, flexibility is key! This morning's plans changed with a most welcome sight: whales!  Not just a sporadic sighting of the world's largest creatures, but a plethora of pods.  Whether it was "oohing" and "aahing" at synchorized blows of water by whales travelling together, or the roll of massive black backs and dorsel fins cresting the surface, we remained transfixed on the smooth waters of Uummannaq Fjord, mesmerized by more than an hour of continuous activity amidst the icebergs.
When the tempo of mammalian majesty slowed, we were introduced to our surroundings by our trusted Greenlandic guide, Ludwig. The community of Uummannaq, his hometown, was celebrating its 250th anniversary today, and we were invited.  It was a tremendous honour, and we rehearsed our collective contribution -- the song "Pilluarit Uummannaq" (Congratulations Uummaanaq) written and composed by Ian Tamblyn.
Uummannaq, a picturesque community nested at the foot of a heart-shaped mountain, was bustling with activity. Welcomed with open arms, we had opportunities to visit museums, observe kayak races, sample local foods, and even to hike to Santa Claus' house on the coastline at the end of a winding, rocky trail. The celebrations themselves brought out the townspeople and many Greenlandic dignitaries, including Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond, former member of the Danish and Greenland Parliaments Ellen Christensen, and former premier Lars Emil. Singing before such a distinguished audience was quite an experience!  Throat singing and drum dancing by Becky, Maina, Cecile, and Sula -- brilliant ambassadors  for Students on Ice and for Canada -- also drew resounding applause.
We also had the honour of watching the emotionally moving film "Inuk," screened by writer Jean-Michel and featuring a cast of local residents (many of whom we had encountered during the day). Wearing sealskin jackets and sitting on caribou (reindeer) skin blankets in the old Blubber House in town, converted into a movie theatre for the event, we witnessed an evocative and intimate portrayal of life in modern Greenland -- a subject that we discussed during tonight's debriefing, when we also welcomed three new members of our team from Uummaanaq.
And so this day of celebration draws to a close, with the midnight sun still colouring the clouds in pink and purple, we prepare to bid farewell to Greenland.  Although ice conditions mean that we will be adjusting our Canadian course, we look forward to our passage through Davis Strait and the adventures that lay beyond...

Photos and journals are now online from July 19! Please check out the previous days' entries for more stories, photos and journal entries. 

You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook too! 


The Icecap

Students produce an on-ship newsletter during the Expedition, called the IceCap. In their first issue, students share phrases in Inuktitut and Greenlandic, interview educators and share their photographs and drawings.

Click here to download it as PDF.






The team woke up this morning to a pod of fin whales.

A fin whale comes up to breathe while feeding.

Geoff Green holds the morning briefing with the students on the sunny outer deck.

Roger Bull explains the characteristics of an edible plant to Jennifer.

Entering the harbour at Uummannaq.

Geoff Green greets the people of Uummannaaq.

Students sing the song that Ian Tamblyn wrote for Uummannaaq’s 250th celebration.

Becky and Maina preform throat-singing for the Celebration!

 Cecile, Sula and Genevieve sing, accompanied by Becky on the drum.

Trying Greenlandic food.

Visiting the town of Uummannaq.

 Kayak races!


The never-ending beauty of icebergs.

 Infinite variation.

Christopher C. and Myles play a duet on the piano in the lounge of the ship.

Hillary writes in her journal.

The midnight sun.



Barcelona, Spain

Un altre dia inolbidable a Groenlandia, avui a Ummannaq, per la celebracio del seu 250 aniversari.
Abans d'arribar a aquest poble tant pintoresc, hem passant una bona estona disfrutant de les balenes que ens envoltaven.
A Ummannaq teniem un comite de venvinguda i hem dinat alla, vist la cursa de kayaks i assistit a la ceremonia de la festa amb cants tradicionals. Pel mes aventurers, caminada a la casa del Pare Noel, aqui diuen que es d'on ve originariament. La visita s'ha acabat amb al projeccio d'Inuk, una peli mig documental maquissima, rodada aqui i guanyadora de 22 premis internacionals, a Europa haurem d'esperar fins a finals d'any per a l'estrena pero val molt i molt la pena. El cine ha sigut tota un experiencia, estirada sobre una pell d'os polar i abrigada amb una jaqueta de pell de foca, no el que jo escolliria personalment pero molt tradicional i realment necessari pel clima, i avui era un dia gairabe perfecte d'estiu!
Ara passarem un parell de dies al vaixell creuant fins a Canada! on noves adventures ens esperen.
Continuo sentint-me molt i molt afortunada/privilegiada.
Mil petons,

Oakville, ON

Visiting the communities of Itilleq and Ilulissat have been interesting experiences and a glimpse into a different world. In the small town of Itilleq (100 people), for two groups of people to transcend language barriers and play a friendly game of soccer was an incredible experience to take part of. But by far the highlight of the last few days have been Zodiac cruises among the peaceful sea of icebergs and hiking through Ilulissat to the UNESCO site where glaciers birth icebergs and fill the fjord and the horizon. Sailing among the icebergs, it is hard to capture in photo or art the abundant number of icebergs. One cannot see where the mountains meet the sea simply because the horizon is filled with unique floating masses of ice.

Along with the breathtaking views, the days are full of educational opportunities, both structured or otherwise. Through conversation with the diverse group of people one can learn something from another perspective. For example I have learned through conversation with an Inuit student that mosquitoes in her home community have become a large nuisance as frozen areas convert to marsh and the climate becomes more inhabitable.

At a lecture on Inuit Tradition versus Modernity, Mary Simon said something that seemed to perfectly describe the problem facing the Inuit with regards to the traditional way of life, finding a place in modernity and keeping their identity alive as well. She said "We have to learn to live in two worlds." A museum exhibition in Ilulissat focused on the Greenlandic perspective of climate change, and the loss of traditional practices because of the changes to sea ice for example. To end off I will remind everyone, we do not have two worlds to waste, we only have the one.


Nanaimo, British Columbia

It has been a very full day here in Uummannaq! A definite highlight was when we saw close to 20 fin whales in the morning. We did see humpbacks as well yesterday, but to me it was much more impactful, seeing the fins (or finbacks). The second largest animal on Earth, second to only the blue whale, watching them helps you understand what a massive presence these gentle giants hold. We even saw a bit of a tail on one as it veered away into its watery world -- something that people don't often see from the shy creatures. The way he was turned, it was if he was waving goodbye.

Off the boat and in the town of Uummannaq, I must have had every kind of traditional food I could get my  paws on. Amidst all this seal and dried fish, I ate TOO much strange food -- so much so it made me sick! I almost excluded myself from the trek that took us to a hut known as Santa's house. I pushed through, which gave me a flicker of pride, considering I managed to finish the entire hike (which more resembled a rock climb) without giving my seal back to the land again.

Tomorrow, it's off into the open waters of the Davis Strait, and then Nunavut. It will be interesting, since some of my new friends are from there. First, however, my stomach and I have to find a way to get across the open ocean. Wish us luck!



Dear Family and friends,

We have been blessed with exceptionally good weather on our fabulous SOI expedition. We have an amazing group of students from all over the world. The Arctic is well represented with great young "ambassadors".

We have spent the day in Uummannaq, Greenland. They are celebrating their 250 years as a community/town and the we participated in all the celebrations. This is the home of the Premier of Greenland whom I have known for many years, so it was really nice to see her and others that I have come to know over the years.

We are going to be at sea for 2 days and will then be back in the Canadian Arctic. We had such a great show from the whales this morning . It was a glorious sunny morning. We are blessed.

Love from Mary


Toronto, ON

How do we, human-beings, understand ourselves in relation to this vast, spectacular, transforming environment? In this arctic light, that question seems to reflect off every surface. This morning we woke to ice bergs and humpback whales in Disko Bay. Two things I have seen only in photographs. Pictures I have looked at so many times I can pull them instantly onto the surface of my brain's projector. But it's amazing the mystery that two dimensions can somehow obscure. The ethereal light that emanates from deep within the ice. The gigantic slide of a wet black body rounding up through dark waters. What am I in relation to these things? How do I make sense of them? On the ship, they pose practical questions of navigation. The respectful approach into whale waters. The careful, masterful path chosen between masses of ice. Out in the zodiacs, the students haul up pieces of berg, pass them from hand to hand, lick their clean saltiness. The need to know them fully requires every sense we have, and still it doesn't feel like enough.

This awe feels pervasive, like a fog we've all entered into together. But as we land in Ilulissat, Maria reminds me of my own bias. This is her home; her brother and sister live here. "I can't imagine life without ice bergs," she says. They are as common for her as the cows that graze in farm fields back in my hometown. "I am trying to see them through your eyes, like for the first time," she smiles.

We hike up a long, wooden boardwalk through the field where the town boards its sled dogs. They watch us pass with only mild interest. Tourists here are commonplace since the Jacobshavn ice fjord was named a UNESCO World Heritage site some years ago. The wonder it inspires from a distance, these giant faces of ice that calved off the glacier now choking the bay, only deepens as we get closer. "It makes me feel so small," someone says.

We are here to grapple with perspective in every sense. In the afternoon, it's with a panel discussion on sustainability and development. A biologist, a fisherman, a mining exec, and a climate expert from the Polar Center all offer ways in to the discussion through their own lenses. Some common themes emerge - the role of human beings as consumers and over-consumers, discussions of equity, of risk and opportunity, of what we can learn from past mistakes and what it means to be agents of our own futures. "The North's resources are important in a global sense," says Tom Paddon, of Baffinland. "The questions of how--and if--we should develop those resources are what we have to wrestle with. The only thing we can't do is avoid asking the question."

"It's not as straight-forward as it first appears," he says. And he's right. Nothing is.


St. Philips, NL

Well today had to be both the most exciting and adventurous day so far on the expedition.  We helped to celebrate the 250th anniversary in the town of Uummannaq.  It was really interesting to experience the various cultural practices of the people as well as to explore the traditions of their past.  The best of all however was our hike around the coast.  It consisted of following small red markers over cliffs, waterfalls, and rocks. We had so much fun trying to navigate around the mountain. By the end we were all dipping our heads into the pond just to cool off!


Toronto, Ontario

Architecture in the Arctic

a floating mountain
of ancient crystals
did you ever see
the architecture in the Arctic?
sprung by glaciers
moved by water
a majestic birthplace
a garden
carved by tender hands
of the wind
infused with the spirit
of the sun
curated by sweeping fulmars
their eaves and wallows
by salty ocean waves
a rocky terrain of ice
has become floating castles of the sea.

This poem was inspired by the amazing events of today, which I feel rounds off one of the most perfect days of my existence. From iceberg watching to visiting a local community, the memories seem to have been etched into my brain. It is as though I cannot remember my life before seeing the icebergs -- that I cannot possibly "disremember" them.

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